Session Three – 5th November 2015 – Norfolk Record Office

imageConservation and Exploring The Search Room

A very busy and interesting morning for the Change Minds group. The group was divided into two groups for an in-depth introduction into how to use the Search room and with Conservation to learn how to handle archive material.


Going into the Search room, the group used their newly issued CARN card (County Archive Research Network) to sign the register at reception before entering the Search room.  One of the Search room assistants Teresa kindly showed the group around the different areas of the Search room including where the St Andrews Hospital catalogue folder is kept and how to order archive documents using a document request slip.

imageWe looked at where the Parish Records are kept and were shown how to search through the reference folders.


imageSome records were on microfilm and some were on fiche.  Teresa showed us how to use the microfilm reader and how to view documents on the fiche reader.  We then spent some time using the computers to access which is freely available through the Norfolk Record Office.

imageParticipants searched through the online census returns and looked at some of the census returns for 1881 and 1891.  Some were difficult to read and took some time to try to decipher the writing.  We were reassured that there is always skilled staff on hand in the Search room when needed.

During the Conservation session with Nick, the group learnt how to safely handle documents and how the Conservation team are preserving and conserving some of the 12,000,000 records held at the Norfolk Record Office.  At the end of the talk some of the group even got to see some of the ‘horrors’ found in documents during acquisition including rusted paper clips, spiders, broken quill tips and a paper which had been grazed by silverfish to the point where it was falling apart!

imageDocument handling training is given to all new staff and volunteers, to enable us to feel confident when using records in the Search room and to understand how to care for records to preserve them for use in the future.  During the session we learnt how to (and how not to) handle documents.  That we should use Norfolk book sofas when reading books from the archives and how to stop pages from turning during reading by using beads and snake weights.  We also learnt how parchment is made and saw examples of the packaging used to protect documents such as acid free envelopes, archival polyester and ‘seal socks’.  Thanks from questioning from one participant we even learnt why newspapers turn yellow when left in the sun!

It was great to hear so many questions asked during the Conservation session and to see first-hand how the Conservation team had repaired damage to some of the records that we will study, which was caused by the fire in the Norwich Central Library in 1994.

Near to the end of the session, the group came back together and spent time talking to the people sitting on their table about their experiences that day and any interesting information that they have found out about their case study.  It was interesting to hear about how many different avenues that participants are taking their research and the different research interests that are developing.

The Fourth session is on Thursday 19th November where we will have a chance to spend more time researching the 19th Century Case Records.